Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle has been worth the long wait

Ryan Mountcastle is exceeding expectations for the Baltimore Orioles.

Fans of the Baltimore Orioles have heard the excuses for a long time now. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t have a position on defense. He won’t hit enough to be a standout first baseman in the major leagues.

Despite a career minor league walk rate hovering around 5% and being moved from shortstop, to third base, to first base, to left field, Ryan Mountcastle has produced at every level of the minor leagues while always being much younger than his competition.

His minor league career culminated in being named the 2019 International League MVP, but it still wasn’t enough for him to make the Baltimore Orioles Opening Day roster in 2020. However, that was largely expected, due to MLB teams’ love for manipulating rookies and their service time.

We are now 19 games into Ryan Mountcastle’s MLB debut and not only has it been worth the excruciatingly long wait, he’s exceeded expectations. Even as someone who has watched Mountcastle very closely over the last three years, he’s exceeded my expectations and is showing us all that he has the ability to be a force in this Orioles lineup for years to come.

Mountcastle is currently slashing .354/.419/.585 with four home runs, three doubles, 10 runs scored, and 14 RBI. His 0.7 Wins Above Replacement is already tied for third among Orioles hitters and his 170 wRC+ ranks second, only to DJ Stewart and his absurd/weird/awesome 2020 campaign.

Just in case you haven’t had the pleasure of watching a Ryan Mountcastle at-bat this season, here’s an example of how beautiful the swing is.

Best of all, Mountcastle is walking. He’s walking a lot. His seven walks in 74 plate appearances are good for a 9.5% walk rate, which is more than double his 4.3% walk rate from his 2019 MVP season.

And despite swinging at a lot of pitches (more than 13% above league average in first-pitch swing rate and well above average chase rate), Mountcastle isn’t striking out very much. His 18.9% strikeout rate is down from his 23.5% mark last season.

Whatever magic the Orioles have brewing down at their Alternate Site in Bowie is clearly working (see Stewart, Keegan Akin, and Dean Kremer). Mountcastle’s plate coverage and discipline have been exceptional and with plenty of more room for growth, it’s very possible we see a more selective major league version of Ryan Mountcastle, one who finally answers the calls for more walks.

Mountcastle is also making plays out in left field and showcasing some pretty impressive speed. If you had Ryan Mountcastle ranking as high as the 81st percentile in sprint speed in the major leagues, raise your hand. Ok, put it down because there’s no way.

It might have taken longer than fans wanted, but the patience is very much paying off this season as Ryan Mountcastle quickly settles into the Baltimore Orioles lineup. Once he’s surrounded by some guys named Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad, the AL East better be on notice.